Two big lakes dominate cottage country in Northwestern Ontario: Lake of the Woods (LOTW) and Rainy Lake. Both areas include much Crown land, so cottages aren’t easy to come by. The LOTW is speckled with more than 14,000 islands, innumerable sandy beaches along its south shore, and countless coves throughout, making it a boater’s playground. Most LOTW cottagers hail from Winnipeg, a two-hour drive, or the U.S.—no surprise, considering parts of the lake are in Manitoba and Minnesota. The 4,000-member-strong Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association’s current concerns include preventing blue-green algae blooms.
Rainy River links LOTW with the western end of Rainy Lake, which also straddles the Minnesota border. Rainy Lake is considerably smaller than its neighbour to the northwest, but it still boasts more than 1,300 km of shoreline on the Ontario side. Fishing is great—you’ll find walleye, pike, trout, and crappie—and every July the lake is home to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. As at Lake of the Woods, wildlife includes moose, deer, eagles, and, for lucky spotters, lynx and martens.
Want a virgin island of your own? Good luck. All vacant islands owned by the Crown were designated as conservation reserves in 2002, which means that no new development can take place.